Join the dots

Fill up your car and you feel the pain. The oil markets are roaring as the world’s second largest exporter gets chopped, quite rightly, at the knees with sanctions and 7.5 million barrels a day are under threat of never seeing the inside of a western vehicle. After the untold savagery of the weekend, pariah status is firmly and unquestionably endowed on Russia with an endless list of western companies pulling out and leaving well alone on a daily basis. Europe is a concerned place right now. 1.5 million refugees have crossed into neighbouring countries and hundreds of thousands of people have been protesting vehemently in the great capitals. Sport played its symbolic part at the weekend but the show went on and the applause for Manchester City’s Ukrainian play-maker, Oleksandr Zinchenko, as he warmed up on the touchline was deeply moving.

©ACE / Studio Borlenghi

And into this mess flies Grant Dalton and the team hoping to secure a venue for the America’s Cup. The much-needed eyeball time from across the boardroom table is now do-able as New Zealand relaxes its MiQ quarantine restrictions but on the face of it, it’s a hellish scene to parachute into. However, connecting the dots, the monetary dots behind the scenes and if it is to be in Europe, the Qatar-backed Malaga is surely now in pole position.

A report early in 2021 suggested that Qatar has some $21 billion worth of investments in Spain and flights have resumed into Malaga direct from Doha. The former Prime Minister of Qatar, Abdullah ben Nasser Al Thani, owns the La Ligue football side, Malaga CF, and there’s money pouring into the region from the upper middle classes of Qatar who are snapping up the luxury end of the Real Estate market and finding rich pickings in renewable energy, shipping and infrastructure investments. A sunny place for shady people? Possibly. But the Costa del Sol always was.

The Spanish government has postured away from the Cup. Taxpayer money certainly won’t be injected what with war on the doorstep and a post-Covid recovery to manage. Governments can’t be seen to be frivolous in the current climate. However, it will be more than accommodative if private monetary sources should be miraculously found and permits need to be fast-tracked for Cup infrastructure and regional investment.

And it’s here where the Qataris can smell a deal. For a trifling $100m or so to fund the Cup, which is chicken feed as Brent Crude spikes to $126 a barrel with some market analysts indicating a peak of $200 in the near-term, the Qataris can get a shiny new marina that pays dividends long into the future. And that’s what the Gulf states all desire – long term, high yield investments that reduce the reliance on oil and gas. Qatar itself only produces some 580,000 barrels for export per day, but at today’s prices that’s $73 million a day and combine this with their natural gas exports which total around $100 billion per year and the context of an America’s Cup becomes clear.

This is high finance at a government and geopolitical level. The Cup is merely a vehicle to securing something so much more and if that sticks in the craw, well welcome to what our beloved, storied, America’s Cup has become. A deal with Malaga is a deal with the Qataris and whilst I don’t blame the organisers for jabbing their tentacles into any big-money source willing to offer up the lifeline of financing, I can’t help but think that there’s a mis-reading of the room going on. A Cup in Europe could be as flat as a pancake if the ravages of war continue. How can you conceivably be seen to spend private and corporate, maybe even government dollars, on a mighty sporting excess whilst a few hundred miles away a sovereign nation is getting thrown to the wolves? It doesn’t sit easily with me. I doubt it sits easy with you either. Will corporate America buy into this? Will anyone other than an oil man see this as a good thing? I fear not.

©Emirates Team New Zealand

Views and opinions are ten-a-penny at the moment in this Cup void but the fact that uncertainty reigns at every corner is unquestionable. The decision that I feel has to be taken is to postpone any venue decision and perhaps even the event itself for the foreseeable future. The ramifications caused by the nuances of both the Deed of Gift and the Protocol will have to be sorted by cool, appreciating heads. These are extraordinary times and sense needs to be injected by all concerned around the America’s Cup. I’m not certain it will happen. I think a deal could well be struck on the gamble that Ukraine is contained and life will return to normal. As it stands today, I think that’s one heck of a punt, taken by those in a corner. It’s last ditch stuff. And searingly unpalatable.

I should be enthused by a Cup in Europe. I’m not. And I can foresee unintended consequences for our sport as a whole if a deal is struck and an announcement made in the coming days and weeks.

Ice the decision. Kick the can down the road. A Cup in Europe should be a terrific thing and the very thought of it was, right up to the moment when it wasn’t. The world changed on a whim and now is not the time for a Cup in Europe. That’s the truth. Deal with it.

8 thoughts on “Join the dots

  1. There’s also an elephant in the room that we can see in the replies to every Kiwi Home Defense Tweet. An awful lot of people in NZ seem to have been soured on the America’s Cup overall by Coutts’ recent anti-vaccination actions. Even though he hasn’t been affiliated with the AC for almost five years now, the press certainly were identifying him as a “former Olympic and America’s Cup champion”, and to judge from the tone of the social media backlash, that led a lot of people to think “Well, if people who do the America’s Cup support arsonists and rioters, I want no part in it”.

    We might say, in line with the title of this blog, that his conduct in Wellington has brought a certain measure of disrepute upon the sport of sailing…

    Does it matter in the grand scheme of things compared to the threat of nuclear war? Perhaps not so much. But if we survive this latest crisis, it will be something we need to address.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To be honest Kai it’s not right by you to attack Russell Coutts. The NZ Government is mostly blamed for that. Russell isn’t “Anti-Vaccination”. He himself is vaccinated but there is a big Difference between common-sense Restrictions when it comes to COVID (which everyone can accept) and Government OVERREACH! And IMO the NZ Government overreached their Authority in this by a lot.


      1. Believe me, I wish I WASN’T in the position of having to criticize Coutts, I respect his sailing accomplishments and his popularization of the sport immensely! I am usually the one defending him in cases where I think he’s criticized unjustly (joining Alinghi and Oracle, promoting multihulls and foiling, having a neutral expression that looks smug, etc.)!

        What I’m not okay with is him offering his endorsement and support for people who called for the Prime Minister to be arrested and hung, for doing a photo op with them and echoing their sentiments that the current government is a “dictatorship”. To date, he has not apologized or denounced these people when they threw fireworks and acid at the police, contaminated beaches off Wellington with their toilet waste, threatened to stab University students, attempted to run police over with cars, set fires on the Parliament grounds that destroyed a playground, tried to burn down a law school, etc., etc.

        What I’m not okay with is that he complained about living in a “dictatorship” because he had to wear a mask to use the bathroom in a restaurant in the same week an actual dictatorship invaded a neighboring country with tanks and missiles.

        If Coutts is legitimately concerned with the government’s coronavirus policies and believes in peacefully protesting them, he should condemn the violent and criminal actions of the occupiers, apologize for using his overblown “freedom” and “dictatorship” rhetoric that stoked the (metaphorical) fires and help pay for the cleanup.

        If Coutts has no actual problems with vaccinations, was by all accounts not harmed by his own vaccinations (since he was safely running all over the world running SailGP all year with no apparent difficulties), and only wants vaccinations to be voluntary rather than mandatory, he could have used his fame to encourage people to get *voluntarily* vaccinated and done an interview about his own successful experience for Stuff as Peter Burling did.

        There are so many better things he could have done in this situation than what he did. And that’s what upsets me as a fan, because I expect something better and smarter from someone like Russell Coutts. My hope is that he does denounce the violence and attempt to make amends.


    2. Hey Kai, I have lived in NZ for 73 years. You are just repeating mainstream propaganda. The biggest problem is people without a moral compass and a lack of a values-driven agenda. And Magnus stop this forelock-tuggery whenever you smell the stench of a rich-prick. NB. Pakeha does not mean white people, it means ‘smelly to touch’.

      Maoritanga will save the world, not the stinking rich.


      1. So I take that to mean that neither of you will go on record as denouncing the violence, either? I feel a lot less comfortable in this sport when I see big names like Ehrman and Gladwell cheering for violent groups that call for the removal of democratically-elected leaders.


  2. I can definitly understand Magnus Reasons not having the Cup in Europe right now BUT:

    1) All the Tennis Tournaments leading up to Roland Garros & Wimbledon will be played including big Tournaments in Madrid & Rome.
    2) All the Major Soccer Leagues like Bundesliga, Premier League, Primera Division, Serie A, etc. are coninueing.
    3) All the SailGP Events scheduled in Europe for Season 3 starting with Plymouth on July 30-31 will proceed.
    4) The Soccer European Championships to be held in Germany in June/July 2024 are still on tap and so are the Paris Olympics.

    Grantstanding this Panic & Fear-mongering about a Nuclear War needs to stop as well. It reminds me when COVID first surfaced.

    You can just cancel everything because there is a WAR going on. Most importantly Teams (Challengers) are eagerly waiting on a Venue. And Magnus, I promise you if ETNZ kick the can down the road we will have a lot of Legal Challenges possibly resulting in a DoG Match between ETNZ & INEOS. Ratcliffe ain’t going to accept another Delay. Bruni & the Italians are to be said furious over the Venue Selection with Francesco Bruni been quoted “The Kiwis are already taking too long for this Selection”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, they’re planned that way for NOW, but I think everyone is feeling some of this uncertainty at the moment. I certainly *like* to think that by purchasing SailGP Chicago tickets I am affirming that I will still be alive in June and there will still be a SailGP and a Chicago— in fact, it comforts me to think of it that way— but I admit I feel less certain of such things than I used to be.


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